Thursday, November 6, 2008

Geocache Armenia!

As diasporans, besides the many charitable and humanitarian projects we undertake in Armenia, we are always looking for fun and adventurous activities to introduce there. These include strivings to make Armenia an international location for birdwatchers, various ecotourism projects like hiking trails, skiing, and rafting, and introducing other western institutions to Armenia like boutique hotels. As diasporans we are almost automatically drawn to doing something for Armenia though our distance usually restricts that to sending money and moral support. I was talking with a friend this weekend who just spent almost a year in Armenia and the conversation both turned to her experiences in Armenia and on an unrelated note my new hobby of geocaching. Suddenly the idea struck me that instituting the hobby in Armenia would be a perfect compliment to other things of interest to do there and could be a small way of doing something for Armenia (with help) from a distance.

For those of you who don't know, geocaching is a novel "sport" which puts a twist on some age-old practices. The major website for the hobby allows you to enter in your town and see a map of the area with the locations of hidden geocaches marked. Each cache has its own page with information about it and the coordinates. You enter that into your GPS device and make your way out to the cache- which typically is made up of at minimum some sort of notebook or log sheet on which you sign your screen name. The smallest ones are tiny and only contain a piece of paper but the larger, more interesting ones are tupperware containers or ammo cans. The larger ones are better because besides a notebook people put in trinkets or toys which can be swapped by people who find the cache. Geocaches certainly aren't anything fancy but there is a surprising satisfaction which comes from hunting and finding them, sometimes hidden in nature or other times in very public areas but just out of notice. Once you've found the cache, signed and traded, you replace it and log it on-line with notes about your find. You can read the experiences of others there as well.

When I first started I of course looked up Armenia and believe it or not the hobby has reached the Caucasus. There have been a total of four geocaches placed in Azerbaijan according to the official website though one on the Baku beach has not been seen in over three years and is considered lost. The ones at the Fire Temple of Ateshgah and the Mardakan Arboretum near Baku also appear to be long gone, it is not rare that caches are accidentally found and thrown away as trash or just plain stolen. Only the cache at the Mud Volcanoes near Gobustan 40 miles south of Baku has been found recently so Azerbaijan only has one viable cache. The nation of Georgia has had two caches placed, the first one by an Austrian team of heliskiiers high in the Caucasus Mountains at the ski resort of Gudauri. It was temporarily disabled in August due to the Russian-Georgian War, Gudauri is far north of Gori and east of Sourth Ossetia, but is now back on line and apparently waiting to be found- though it never seems to be found probably because of its remoteness. The other is naturally located in Tbilisi and appears to be up a hill with a nice view of the city.

As for Armenia, it can already claim the distinction of having the most active caches in the South Caucasus because all three of them have been found recently and are not likely to have been destroyed or lost as in Azerbaijan. One cache is dedicated to a view of Ararat from Yerevan and based on the clues it is located in a "modern housing subdivision" on Leningradian Street. The other two are hidden in the Erebuni ruins complex, as you can see one of them as pictured here is labeled in Armenian and English to warn people who might stumble upon it what it really is and to not trash it. While it is hard to determine much about the people who place these caches the Erebuni ones seem to have been placed by someone living in Yerevan while the other was left by a visitor.

What I find most fascinating about geocaching is the dedication and expanse of the hobby. A check of the website’s map shows that geocaches can be found everywhere from the northern shelf of Alaska to Antarctica. I’ve looked up countries far more remote than Armenia such as ones in the heart of Africa and have found there aren’t just a couple geocaches in those places but numerous! Therefore Armenia only having three at this point is terribly understated for such a huge hobby and feel something interesting could be instituted in Armenia without much work. While obviously most residents of Armenia don’t own the necessary GPS device to participate themselves (unless an alternate method of finding the cache more like steps of a treasure hunt as opposed to just the coordinates is also put on the cache’s site allowing people to find it without one) it could become something for tourists to do at the various sites they visit. The fact that some visitors to Armenia have already participated is proof that people geocache while they travel in Armenia and perhaps if it had more caches it would bring in more people with this hobby to visit.

A place I thought would be perfect for geocaching is along the Janapar trail in Karabakh ( While people are walking the trail they can seek up caches hidden along it, trade things with other hikers and see who has been there before them. Caches can be hidden at places of interest along it as a way of getting people to seek those places out and enjoy them which they might have otherwise just passed by if their attention wasn’t drawn to it by the cache. I am not in Armenia so can't implement geocaching in Armenia myself but hopefully some of the readers will. It is so easy to do that I don’t feel like I’m asking much of them at all, just sign up at, buy a cache container and get started! My favorite thing people use as the 'cache' are .30 ammo cases because they are metal and durable. I am sure there are lots of those in Armenia and while probably not sold in stores there like in America I bet someone at Vernisage must have things of that nature. I have included the picture of the current map of Armenia where all three caches can be seen marked off around Yerevan. Wouldn’t it be nice to make Armenia a geocaching haven of the Caucasus with many more marked off? I hope anyone interested in possibly hiding a cache in Armenia who wants to learn more will leave a message and we can get started. Come on let’s Geocache Armenia!

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